"Our goal was to better understand the root causes of the frequent floods in the Caspian Sea region, and what specific actions are required in rehabilitating the affected region," Robert Mister, the team leader and programme adviser, told IRIN in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Monday. "We are trying to design a recovery programme that would reduce the future risks to floods and drought, assuring that such problems do not occur again," he added.
During its mission, the team identified technical studies necessary for effective reclamation, as well as practical measures in forest and range land rehabilitation, water and livestock management and community participation, Mister said.
Commenting on what he saw, Mister said there had been serious degradation as a result of over-intensive agricultural and livestock production. In terms of government response and rehabilitation, he stressed that while action was being taken speedily and competently, there was a strong need to look at the watershed area in a comprehensive and integrated way. "This would require provincial departments working together more effectively, as well as a greater involvement of local communities," he added.
The team undertaking the five-day mission comprised experts in agriculture, natural-resources management, hydrology and community participation. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the torrential rains, which left 247 dead and scores missing, caused flooding in the northeastern provinces of Golestan and Khorasan, and in the central province of Semnan.
The cities of Kalaleh and Minudasht, as well as 15 villages nearby, were worst affected. The government estimated that 15,000 hectacres of agricultural land and 10,000 hectares of forest and rangeland had been washed away, resulting in some US $375 million worth of damage.
According to relief agencies, drought conditions in the country have made some areas particularly prone to flooding. Many areas have been suffering from a severe four-year drought. As the drought and degradation of natural vegetation increases the exposure of the soil, so too does the threat of flash floods. In July, floods affecting northwestern provinces of Iran killed 30 people.
The team is currently preparing a plan for the government for implementation.
Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2001